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In Asia, more than a million Hindus thronged temples to celebrate this festival, during which many display their devotion by piercing their bodies with hooks and skewers. On the day of the festival, devotees shave their heads and undertake a pilgrimage along a set route while engaging in various acts of devotion, notably carrying various types of heavy burdens, while others may carry out acts of self mortification by piercing the skin, tongue or cheeks with skewers and sharp hooks.
The devotees perform “Kavadi”, an act of faith where they suffer the pain of dozens of hooks and spears piercing their body during the 272 steps that bring them to the cave temple.
Yahoo News has featured a collection of photographs taken a various photographers (some photographs are rather gruesome) on its News webpage. These are arranged in a slideshow format.
It is said that there an incredible amount of photographers and photojournalists during the processions and at the Batu Caves; and it takes a lot of doing to avoid taking photographs with other photographers in them. I haven't noticed photographers in the slideshow...but I know full well the amount of effort (and frustration) it takes to do so.
Self mortification rituals are performed in a number of religious traditions; the Shi'a mataam on the day of Ashura is one of them. And I photographed the Kodungallur Bharani, a wild and unusual localized religious festival near Kochi, during which devotees symbolically strike their foreheads with swords till blood trickles down their faces.